Today we are featuring guest blogger Emily Hayes, a BA student in the U of Alberta Environmental Studies program. We have been interested in profiling the voice of youth in our blog, and hear about educational opportunities and job prospects for those who want to focus on the health of our planet. Thank you so much Emily for taking time to answer our questions so meaningfully and for sharing with us your insights.
What is the name and location of the environmental program you are in?
“I am currently in the BA in Environmental studies program at the University of Alberta. I am taking a concentration in Politics, Society and Global Environment. The other two available concentrations are Food and Society and then Environment and Peoples of Canada. However, the program will be undergoing some upgrades and a redesign so these titles may change in the future!”
How long is the program and what are the main courses you are taking?
“The program is theoretically four years however the flexibility of the program really allows you to make it your own. I am planning on drawing out my degree to 5 or 6 years in hopes of increasing my time for volunteering, extra curriculars and additional learning opportunities. Regarding the flexibility within the program itself, on top of getting to choose my concentration, I get 11 free electives over the course of my program to elaborate on things I’ve learned so far, try new subjects and indulge in my interests separate from my degree program. The first two years of the program are very general and cover many bases from political science to biology to economics to native studies. In the later years of my degree, I focus on completing the requirements for my concentration in Politics, Society and Global Environment which consists largely of agriculture economics, sociology and rural sociology, and political science, all with an environmental lens. To wrap everything up, I take a capstone research course that nicely summarizes what I’ve learned throughout the degree.”
What got you interested in this line of study/work?
“I would say that my parents really emphasized environmental issues throughout my youth, particularly by teaching me how to recycle and compost, reducing our plastic consumption and by building and maintaining a solar powered cabin. This led me to get involved in environmental strikes and clubs throughout high school. From this, I learned just how intertwined the climate justice movement is with social justice issues, another great interest of mine. Gaining an understanding of environmental and social issues through activism highlighted the importance of viewing the climate crisis as a social issue. It’s from there that I began looking for programs that would allow me to learn about social theory and act on environmental and social injustices!”
Are there other similar programs across the country?
“Although I didn’t look into many, there are quite a few environmental studies programs across the country. I’m not too familiar with the differences and similarities to my own program but some other universities that offer a BA in Environmental Studies include the University of Victoria, Wilfred Laurier University, the University of Waterloo, Carleton University, the University of Ottawa and the University of PEI.”
Do you feel your program is teaching you useful skills, and do they help with graduates finding employment?
“The flexibility and versatility of my program allows for so many different outcomes, making it hard to pinpoint where each student will end up after graduation. Most graduates of Environmental Studies don’t know what career they will be doing and therefore can’t be provided with a specific bank of knowledge that they are guaranteed to use in their future career. However, I’m finding that instead, I’m being provided with an open-ended skill set that teaches me to think critically about environmental and sociological issues which can be useful in a wide variety of careers! I am gaining a strong base in social and environmental theory to which I can apply to new scenarios as they come up and change throughout my personal and professional life. I have not been made aware of any programs or initiatives from the university specific to my degree or faculty that would help graduates find employment after graduation, but the University of Alberta does offer many opportunities during your degree that can help you get ahead. This includes local and international internships, volunteer opportunities and going abroad which can boost resumes and help in narrowing down the direction that graduates want to go once they’ve completed their degree.”
What is your passion and what are you hoping to do when you graduate?
“This is a difficult question! My dream would be to be involved in some sort of environmental and social justice activism. I would also be interested in environmental education as I love to teach what I’m passionate about, especially because it is an extremely important subject for everyone to know and understand! I feel that education and open discussions are crucial in unifying people of all political and social backgrounds to achieving the common goal of a sustainable future and I would love to focus my skills on that!”
Describe some (as many as possible) of the career paths available to someone coming out of your program? Is there a lot of competition for work in this field?
“With sustainability becoming more important than ever, I think we’re approaching a time where the expanse of the environmental field is truly just beginning. It’s not hard to believe that there could be room for everybody to contribute to a sustainable society, whether that be through a career or volunteering. As the environmental field grows, there will be even more jobs created that are suited to the graduates of my program and other environmental fields. That being said, here are a few career paths that my university recommends:
Environmental Education Specialist
Environmental/Aboriginal Relations Advisor
What is your view of the liberal government management of its commitments to the Paris Accord? What can they do better?
“Honestly, I really don’t think that what they’ve done is enough or will be enough to meet the goals of the accord. The discrepancy we’re seeing in Canada between agreeing to certain targets and actually following through with a plan to achieve them is huge and quite concerning. Our government needs to be focusing on investing in a green energy sector while phasing out current projects that increase our emissions, such as oil and gas. As this won’t happen overnight, this involves retraining and transitioning fossil fuel workers to new and sustainable sectors. Furthermore, big corporations are primarily responsible for the majority of our emissions and need to be held truly accountable in terms of meeting emission reduction goals and transitioning their industries to greener ways of running. As we’re approaching the 2030s, our government’s transition plan needs to be big, and it needs to be bold, but it also needs to support all Canadians.”
Do you feel hopeful about the future health of our planet?
“Overall, we are behind where we need to be to combat the climate emergency. However, it’s important to realize that there is no specific point of no return after which we will be completely doomed although, the longer we wait to act, the worse the effects will be in the long run. This is why it is so important that we get everyone involved and continue to pressure our governments to act as fast as possible. There is no deadline, but this is still an emergency that threatens the existence of life on our planet!”
In your view, how can we instil more passion in fellow citizens to reduce carbon emissions?
“Although individual actions like taking shorter showers and using shampoo bars are important and can prepare us for the change to come, the emphasis needs to be on corporate and societal change. And this requires a lot of push from individuals banding together. The next 5, 10, even 20 years will be extremely challenging, and we don’t have all the answers to our problems yet which creates a lot of hesitancy towards this change. In Alberta in particular, the biggest challenge is finding a way of showing people that environmental justice is a movement for them and not against them. Through my degree and personal research, I can see how much hope, empowerment, and equality there is in a transition to a sustainable future and it’s important that others see that as well! What are some socially and environmentally positive changes you can think of that would personally benefit you and your friends and family?”
Local Edmonton environmental organizations to follow and get involved in:
@climatejusticeEdmonton (also other cities such as @climatejusticeToronto)
We have more EV news to share which for us has added further dimension to our recent past blogs on what we predict will be this soon-to-be-mainstream transformational shift in transportation.
An insightful and provocative piece by the CBC this week asks, “Can Electric Vehicles End the War on Oil?” and challenges us to learn more about and consider the role of fossil fuels, and oil in particular, in influencing geopolitics through the finance of armed conflict.
It starts the analysis with a dimension we are more familiar with in terms of climate change – that a move from a transportation system that ‘runs on fossil fuels to one powered by electricity’ will help ‘to reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming.’
The added dimension which offered us new insight on the issue came in presenting an important difference between non-renewable fossil fuels and electricity.
Professor Cullen Hendrix Russell’s research (University of Denver) is discussed and for the author, “…demonstrates the connection between high oil prices and militarism”…and “that a rise in oil prices increases the likelihood that petro-states such as Venezuela or Iran will engage in a military dispute (usually over their border). Higher oil prices provide these countries with more money, which they use to strengthen their armed forces.”
Whereas, the article presents the notion that “Electric power as a transportation fuel can be produced anywhere, in a variety of sustainable ways, removing the geopolitical leverage that so many oil producers currently enjoy.”
We find it interesting to revisit the benefits of reducing carbon emissions via shifting to an EV powered transportation system, now informed by this CBC article, as we read the BBC headline and news of today with added perspective — “Ukraine War: EU plans Russian oil ban and war crime sanctions”. The BBC piece reports on European Union decisions taken, as described by EU President Ursula von der Leyen, on a package “aimed at maximising pressure on Russia while minimising damage to Europe.”
“Russian crude oil would be phased out within six months, she said.”
“The EU has been focusing for weeks on how to wean itself off Russian oil and gas. It has already pledged to reduce gas imports by two-thirds by the end of 2022 and now plans to phase out crude oil over six months and refined products by the end of 2022.”
Stellantis Invests in Ontario for Vertical Integration in EV Supply Chains
This week’s news, as reported by CTV, saw investments of $3.6 billion by Stellantis in the automaker’s Windsor and Brampton plants.
“The investments are expected to accelerate the creation of one of the most vertically integrated electric vehicle supply chains in North America.
“Stellantis will retool and modernize the plants in Windsor and Brampton, converting them to flexible, multi-energy vehicle assembly facilities ready to produce the electric vehicles of the future. Officials say the Windsor Assembly Plant will return to a three-shift operation when the changes are in place.”
“The company will also build two new research and development centres focusing on electric vehicles and EV battery technology.”
“Ontario is supporting all these critical investments with up to $513 million, with a matching investment from the federal government.”
More green news from Windsor is reported in the CBC’s Earth Day coverage.
Annual tree planting events have been hosted by the Essex Region Conservation Authority’s (ERCA) since 1999 and took a two-year pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. Happily, Earth Day 2022 saw a return to tree planting celebrations in Windsor, with over 800 people showing up to plant about 2500 trees.
“Trees are identified as the biggest weapon in the fight against climate change,” said Danielle Breault Stuebing, director of communications and outreach services with ERCA. (CBC: https://bit.ly/3MNUgVV)
Players Playing for Trees
We have donated in the past to One Tree Planted and are now on their mailing list. Recently we learned about a new fun way to support their reforestation initiatives, especially for sports fans, by following favourite professional athlete(s) / team(s) via the new ‘Players Playing for Trees’ initiative.
How it works (FYI and not an endorsement) – you set up your automatic donation account, your chosen athlete makes a play, your donation is sent to One Tree Planted, and the organization plants trees in a reforestation project.
To illustrate, some of the participating athletes and teams include, for example, Lucas Giolito (Boston), Ryan Burr, Dylan Cease, Shane Bieber, Tony Kemp (Oakland As), Stephen Piscotty , Chad Kubl, Brent Suber (Milwaukee Brewers) among others. Here’s the website link for anyone interested in learning more — https://playfortrees.onetreeplanted.org/.
Vote for Toronto’s Official Tree
There is still time for Toronto residents to cast a vote for the city’s official tree.
“The City of Toronto is naming a new official symbol: Toronto’s Official Tree. Everyone in Toronto can cast their vote to help pick Toronto’s Official Tree. There are four trees that all represent Toronto and can be chosen from: birch, maple, oak or pine.”
Thanks to Reader Nora for putting this opportunity on our radar. Catherine has cast her vote for her favourite tree (shared by Lucia too) – the oak.
Everyone who lives in Toronto is eligible to vote. Learn more about each of the four tree contenders on the City of Toronto’s website and cast your vote!
“Voting began on April 21 and closes May 10 at 11:59 p.m. The winning tree will be announced this spring.” (City of Toronto site — https://bit.ly/3OVmf7T)
Toronto Tree Planting and Stewardship Volunteer Opportunities
This Spring we both look forward to getting outdoors and taking advantage of volunteer opportunities that are resuming once again in Edmonton and Toronto to help grow our respective city’s urban forest.
The City of Toronto’s website describes the benefits of volunteering in this way below:
“Join us to plant trees, shrubs and wildflowers, and help grow Toronto’s urban forest. As a volunteer you will:
Learn more about native trees, shrubs and invasive species
Learn how to plant a tree
Take part in environmental stewardship activities
Meet new people, make new friendships and network within the community
Gain experience, leadership and interpersonal skills
Number of participants. Some events have limited capacity for groups with 10 or more people
Calendar of Stewardship Events – May to June 2022
Catherine looked at the online calendar of events to profile a few upcoming opportunities for Toronto-based Readers (and herself) in May and June. Some examples for May 18 and 29, and for June 4 and 11 are listed below —
Highland Creek Community Park Planting Event
Join Urban Forestry staff for a morning of tree planting in beautiful and peaceful Highland Creek Community Park. No experience is necessary and all ages are welcome.
When:May 18, 2022 (10:00 am – 12:00 pm)
Albion Gardens Planting Event
Help us to enhance the woodlot in this beautiful park! After joining us to plant native trees and shrubs, take a walk along the Humber River Recreational Trail. You may spot some wildlife! No experience is necessary and all ages are welcome.
When:May 29, 2022 (10:00 am – 12:00 pm)
Smythe Park Planting Event
Supported by: Friends of Smythe Park
Come plant under the oaks with us! We will be restoring the understory of a mature oak stand at the top of the slope next to Edinborough Park. We will be planting native trees, shrubs and wildflowers.
When:June 4, 2022 (10:00 am – 12:00 pm)
Ridge Trail Stewardship Event
Join us for a morning of trail maintenance activities on the Ridge Trail, which runs behind the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood. Tools will be provided, and no experience is required.
Sometimes it is simply enough to enjoy the pleasures and beauty of walking in a nearby urban forest, rather than planting and growing it!
Thanks to a recent CBC piece on the New Brunswick ‘Edible Forest,’ we share ideas offered by ‘wild-food foragers’ on possible hidden gems to be on the look out for in (y)our walks.
The piece profiles Danielle Tranquilla, head farmer and forager for downtown Fredericton restaurant The Palate, whose forest walking mission is to find ‘local ingredients diners are hungry for.’ These include fiddleheads, chanterelles and lobster mushrooms. Other foraged ingredients identified include, e.g., ramps (a garlicky wild onion), berries, chokecherries, wild onions, cattails and spruce needles.
Catherine can personally attest to the novel and tasty treat of cooking with spruce tips, and shares the recipe she used from The Spice Trader for Garlic and Spruce Tip Roasted Potatoes, offered as inspiration for others to ‘branch out’ (sorry, bad pun intended 😊) when planning for their ‘forest feast’ and foraging walk. Enjoy! (Spice Trader recipe link — https://bit.ly/38QoxVc)
Year of the Garden 2022
We learned recently in Leaside Life about the House of Commons declaring 2022 as the Year of the Garden.
“It all started last March when the Canadian Garden Council proclaimed 2022 as the Year of the Garden to commemorate Canada’s rich horticulture and garden heritage and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association. At least that’s how it started, but it went on to honour the First Nations’ history of living in harmony with plants and nature. The council also included how sustainable gardening can help to fight climate change and added the important role that gardening and nature have on our mental and physical wellbeing.”
“Last June, that proclamation became a declaration in the House of Commons when the federal government declared 2022 as the Year of the Garden.”
“Here at home, our councillor, Jaye Robinson, seconded the motion to proclaim 2022 as the Year of the Garden at City Council, which was adopted unanimously. Toronto was the very first city to commit to honouring the Year of the Garden!”
For the Leaside Life article —
From the “Live the Garden Life” website, additional information on Year of the Garden 2022, including an invitation to ‘plant red’ (official Year of the Garden colour) and share your garden photos for recognition.
“You’re invited to join in the fun and “Live the Garden Life” during the Year of the Garden 2022, a celebration of everything garden and gardening related in Canada.”
“The Year of the Garden officially starts the first day of spring, and all Canadians – whether you already enjoy gardening, recently discovered the pleasure of spending time in a garden because of the pandemic, or want to learn more about how gardens impact so much of life – are invited to take part. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, celebrate our country’s rich garden heritage, and help grow important legacies for a sustainable future.”
“No matter where you live, in a house, condo or apartment, your gardens contribute to the enjoyment of life. From container kitchen gardens on a balcony, a landscaped backyard, colourful flower beds, to a community vegetable garden providing food to the neighbourhood, all need a little effort on your part to nurture their success.”
“Supported by the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, The Canadian Garden Council, through its Year of the Garden 2022 initiative aims to inspire and inform Canadians about the many health and well-being, economic, and environmental benefits gardens and gardening provide, and along the way provide tips and tricks for gardening success and the enjoyment of gardens.”
“During 2021, with the help of Founding Partners: the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, Québec Vert, the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance, Garden Centres Canada, the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, and Communities in Bloom, and Founding Sponsors: Scotts Canada, Premier Tech, and Proven Winners, the Year of the Garden 2022 was proclaimed by the Canadian Garden Council to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Ornamental Horticulture in Canada.”
“The Year of the Garden 2022 offers many opportunities to “Live the Garden Life” and get involved, enjoy garden experiences, and get inspired in the garden.”
“Everyone in Canada, including individuals, and those in organizations, schools, churches, colleges and universities, clubs, societies, businesses, and municipalities are invited to Live the Garden Life and Plant Red during the Year of the Garden 2022.”
“Plant Red to pay tribute to lives lost, or honour frontline workers during the pandemic. Or Plant Red as an expression of your Canadian Garden Pride in 2022.”
“Share your garden. Register your Plant Red Garden at no cost, by submitting a photo of your garden. Your entry will be pinned on the map (by community not exact location) and you will receive a special downloadable Plant Red Garden Certificate of participation.”
We will do some more research and return in future blogs with ideas on some red flowers, plants and shrubs to consider including in your spring or fall gardening plans. Stay tuned! (Feel free to comment and share your tips on favourite red flowers and plants, too. Thank you.)
Got the gardening bug, but need a place to plant? Or, have a yard that you are not into?
Learn more about and perhaps consider ‘yard sharing,’ with initiatives already underway in places such as Edmonton, Regina, Halifax, Hamilton, Vancouver and Toronto as covered in this CBC piece on “Love gardening? Hate gardening?” ( CBC : https://bit.ly/3KIOlQG and from tips and resources offered via the Toronto Urban Growers’ garden sharing toolkit, which includes a sample yard sharing template for topics for landowner and gardener to discuss and agree on in writing (e.g., sharing and storing tools, garden maintenance, how costs and the harvest will be shared, off-limits questions (in keeping with Ontario Human Rights code)), at: https://bit.ly/382TVQt.
Benefits of yard sharing to consider, as identified on the Toronto Urban Growers’ site include:
Open up space for urban food growers
Increase availability of fresh, local produce
Turn underused spaces into green amenities
Build community connections and resilience
Further ‘food for thought,’ on the benefits of gardening from the CBC yard sharing article:
“Growing fruits, vegetables and flowers benefits not just people, but bees, birds and other wildlife. Plants also help absorb excess rainwater from storms, reducing the risk of flooding compared to grass lawns or yards that are turne into tiled, paved
In the spirit of celebrating all ‘mothers’ every day for the gift of life, and especially as Mother’s Day approaches on May 8th, we give the last word here to ‘Mother Trees’.
Canada’s own Suzanne Simard is a groundbreaking global forest ecology expert and researcher into forests’ Mother Trees, leading the Mother Tree Project in B.C.
From One Tree Planted’s blog on Mother Trees we learn that, according to Simard,
“Mother Trees are large trees within a forest that act as centralized hubs, supporting communication and nutrient exchange amongst trees.”
“These massive ancients are dubbed “Mother Trees” because they recognize kin, supply resources, share wisdom, sound alarms, support networks of hundreds of trees, foster deep connections and alliances, and pass their legacies down to future generations. Sound familiar? That’s because it is. As strange as it may sound, we have more in common with trees than we think.”
AMAZING THINGS MOTHER TREES DO:
Use their deep roots to draw up water and share it with shallow-rooted seedlings
Detect the distress signals of neighboring trees and respond by sending them nutrients,
Reduce their root competition to make elbow room for their “kids”
Pump sugar and other lifesaving resources like carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous into the roots of young saplings
Infect saplings with mycorrhizal fungi, pulling them into the supportive embrace of the wood wide web, where life-saving help is available”
“And speaking of fungi, it’s ubiquitous: one teaspoon of forest soil contains several miles of fungal filaments, coating every particle of soil and working its way into tiny crevices that tree roots can’t reach. With its help, Mother Trees are able to support entire forests, serving as “hubs” in the interconnected forest web of life.”
“When Mother Trees are injured, dying, or in their twilight years, they deliberately pass their resources on to their “children”. While science hasn’t determined exactly how they’re able to recognize their kin, the implications are clear: by offering support, Mother Trees ensure that their genetic line will run unimpeded. But Mother Trees don’t just support their own immediate families — or even their own species!”
“Started in 2015 and funded by NSERC and FESBC, the Mother Tree Project is a large, scientific, field-based experiment that builds on prior research with the central objective of identifying sustainable harvesting and regeneration treatments that will maintain forest resilience as climate changes in British Columbia.”
“The project is unique to British Columbia because of its large scale and replication across a broad climate gradient. It is the first to test partial retention harvesting alongside transfer of genotypes from other climate regions, and to consider Mother Trees as important ecosystem components.”
“The Mother Tree Project explores the following research questions:
What role do Mother Trees play in forest regeneration?
What seedling mixes work best for forest regeneration?
How does the size, number and distribution of trees retained (left uncut) at a harvesting site impact forest regeneration?
How is the forest carbon budget affected by various harvesting and regeneration treatments?
How is biodiversity (animals, plants, fungi, bacteria) affected by various harvesting and regeneration treatments?
What are the ecological processes that drive these responses?”
To learn more about The Mother Tree Project, at Suzanne Simard’s official project website – https://mothertreeproject.org/ and/or in her two Ted Talks :
TED Talk: The Secret Languages of Trees (2019, 4 minutes) –
Ted Talk: How Trees Talk to Each Other (2016, 18 minutes)
In 2021, Suzanne Simard published her first book, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. The Good Reads review, available at: https://bit.ly/3yjLRFT:
“Suzanne Simard is a pioneer on the frontier of plant communication and intelligence; she’s been compared to Rachel Carson, hailed as a scientist who conveys complex, technical ideas in a way that is dazzling and profound. Her work has influenced filmmakers (the Tree of Souls of James Cameron’s Avatar) and her TED talks have been viewed by more than 10 million people worldwide.”
“Now, in her first book, Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees, in which she brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths–that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complex, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own.”
“Simard writes–in inspiring, illuminating, and accessible ways–how trees, living side by side for hundreds of years, have evolved, how they perceive one another, learn and adapt their behaviors, recognize neighbors, and remember the past; how they have agency about the future; elicit warnings and mount defenses, compete and cooperate with one another with sophistication, characteristics ascribed to human intelligence, traits that are the essence of civil societies–and at the center of it all, the Mother Trees: the mysterious, powerful forces that connect and sustain the others that surround them…”
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM MOTHER TREES?
We close this blog post with reflections and some inspiring thoughts (we hope) in challenging yet also hopeful times, as offered by One Tree Planted‘s blog on ‘What Can We Learn From Mother Trees?’
“Mother Trees remind us of our better nature. They prove that true strength is reflected in our ability to help each other, and that we’re at our best when our communities are healthy, our connections strong, and our resources equitably distributed. They remind us to share when we have more than we need, and to give a helping hand to those that are struggling. Just like our own mothers, from root to sky, they have a lifetime of wisdom and inspiration to share.” (One Tree Planted’s blog — https://bit.ly/3vGGpeq)